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    Posted May 26, 2008 by
    cdorsey87
    Location
    Cape Town, South Africa
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your photos from 'Inside Africa'

    Refugee Camp in Cape Town

     

    Soetwater is a popular nature reserve and picnic location along the Atlantic Ocean on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. On Saturday, May 24th, it became a refugee camp. 

     

    "When we lived in Somalia, we were in the middle of a war. We came to South Africa to work and make a name for ourselves and now we are at war again. If we are going to die in a war, we at least want to die in our own land, not here," said one displaced Somalian.

     

    Local police stations have been overwhelmed with an outpouring of supplies. Large tents were erected to house the refugees and to offer basic needs such as food, medical help and information. Local AIDS-relief organization, Living Hope was the first on the scene with medical equipment and staff. They organized trained nurses and doctors to come from nearby hospitals. The local churches and NGOs initiated this burst of generosity. The government has been hesitant to respond, not knowing the severity of the situation.

     

    Nearby in the town of Fish Hoek, King of Kings Baptist Church became the home of 160 foreigners who slept there during the first night. They lived in Masiphumelele, also known as Site 5, where violence broke out the night before in the most recent of xenophobic attacks in South Africa and the first to spread to the western cape. In the past two weeks, over 50 people have been killed in the worst burst of hate-crimes to hit South Africa since apartheid ended in 1994.

     

    Everyone there was eventually moved to Soetwater. Upon arrival, each refugee registered and received a wristband with a corresponding number. With hundreds of volunteers erecting tents, bringing in truckloads of blankets and food, and setting up generators and floodlights, the wristband became a token to receive medical attention and food.

     

    Close to 700 people were registered by Saturday evening. Approximately 200 more were not allowed in the gate until more facilities had been built the following day. Police and military personnel showed up. The mayor of Cape Town stopped by and placed John Thomas (pastor of King of Kings and founder of Living Hope) in charge. There are now close to 1,500 people in Soetwater and thousands more in other make-shift refugee camps across the greater Cape Town metro, and all of South Africa.

     

    Although the recent wave of xenophobic attacks has caused controversy surrounding the leadership of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Somalia, the outpouring and kindness of local residents has shown that good can indeed appear in the face of such hatred.

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